Today I saw 10.8 miles on the screen of my Garmin. Usually there wouldn’t be anything remarkable about this distance. I’ve run it plenty of times before — twice already this week, in fact. However, today this number meant I’d accomplished something I’ve never done before.
I ran 200 miles in one month.
Actually, make that 29 days to be exact. (I took two rest days — one due to travel and the other prior to last weekend’s long run.) To some this may seem like a small feat; others might call me crazy. Truth is, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. To me, reaching this milestone was better than finishing some races I’ve run. It was hard. It was time consuming. And it involved running 50 miles last week, followed by another 48 in five days.
On Wednesday, when I was sitting at 180 for the month, I had my doubts as to whether I could hit 200. Twenty miles in two days seemed unimaginable given what I’d been asking of my body lately. My right achilles tendon was achey, my shoulders were tight, and I wasn’t sure if my body would cooperate. But I should’ve known better than to doubt myself.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from running it’s that the human body is capable of amazing things. It’s the mind that takes some coercing. Self-doubt is a distance runner’s biggest enemy, and it’s one I’m all too familiar with. I often tell people that running a marathon is 90% mental and 10% physical. I’m so fond of this expression that there’s a sign placed on the course of the Akron Marathon each year that quotes me as saying something along these lines. Unfortunately, I’ve not always been good at following my own advice.
Four years ago, I got a concussion playing soccer, and I was unable to run for a long time. All the hours I’d put into training suddenly seemed worthless. There was nothing I could do to keep from losing the momentum and fitness I’d built up. All I could do was watch it slowly fade away. This made me sad and frustrated, but worst of all, it filled me with self-doubt. I thought I’d never get back to the level I was at before the injury. It just seemed too daunting, too time-consuming, and too painful. So I didn’t try…not even after the doctor told me to “hit the road,” again.
Running has always been a part of who I am, and in not doing it, I became someone else. Someone I didn’t like very much.
My sophomore year of high school, my best friend gave me a photocopy of an article from Runner’s World titled “Most Myself.” It was written by a woman who felt her best, her most confident, her most beautiful out on a run — wearing a t-shirt and running shorts with her sweaty ponytail swinging behind her. It’s funny how random things, like that photocopy, have stayed with me over the years. The truth is that I’m a lot like the article’s author. The road is where I feel most at peace with myself.
When I stopped running, I lost that feeling. I’d like to tell you that it was easy to get back, but it wasn’t easy at all. It was really difficult and it took me a long time and a lot of miles. However, finding it again has made me a stronger runner and a stronger person. So when I looked down at my Garmin this morning and saw 10.8 miles, I didn’t feel tired or sore. I didn’t feel my achey achilles or tight shoulders. I felt at peace. I felt happy. I felt like myself. There was no doubt about it.